The frequently followed path upward goes from corporate programmer to systems analyst to project leader to programming manager to IT manager to CIO (Chief Information Officer) to VP of Information Technology. Joe Cohill, Director of Business Analysis at a multibillion-dollar manufacturing company outside Philadelphia, followed a slightly different routefrom public accountant to programmer to systems analyst to project leader to divisional manager to corporate management.
What got Joe into management was a combination of qualities that every manager must have: business understanding, communications skills, the ability to lead, and that frequently touted virtue, people skills. Which include, Joe says, being able to take the project by the horns calmly, not getting flustered, and getting the job done without pointing fingers.
Joe got a public accounting degree from the Philadelphia Institute of Textiles and Sciences; he went into accounting because his father was a CPA. In the late 1980s, as he looked around the small packaging company where hed landed after working with his father for several years , Joe observed that people were relying on programmers to get things done. The accounting department was considered a necessary evil, but the company really needed these programming guys.
So Joe asked if he could switch into the IT department, took a course in programming at a local community college, and learned on the job (with the help of a guided-learning tape from IBM). And people were nice enough to mentor me, Joe says.
Working in so small a company gave Joe an incredible learning opportunity. He got to be everythinganalyst, programmer, tester, implementer, and trainer; he met the worker on the factory floor, the middle manager, and the end user . All of this, plus his experience with RF ( Radio Frequency) barcode scanning and data collection, got him a systems analysis job (with salary increase) at a company five times larger than his old firm.
He no longer did programming. At the new job, he was an integral part of a team that immediately began automating the company warehouse, using a sophisticated, complex software package (until then, the company had only in-house-written code). Just knowing how to install that package greatly increased his market value. For the first couple of months, there were rough spots, he acknowledges. Its a difficult thing to change the company culture. But once wed worked through it all, it was a successful template for all the other warehouses the company acquired [there are now seven].
Working with the engineering department and distribution management made Joe more visibleand promotable. Now, after two promotions, hes part of a three-member management team that analyzes business processes throughout the company. Joe uses his programming, hardware, and project leadership knowledge to help the other divisions in his company meet their financial goals.